Melbourne have hailed Mitch Clark’s decision to retire from an AFL career to concentrate on his health as brave.
Clark, who has suffered mental health issues for 12 months and was recently diagnosed with clinical depression, announced his retirement on Tuesday night.
He was given indefinite leave by the Demons last month but after talks with the club decided to walk away from his AFL career.
In a statement, Clark both thanked and apologised to players and members.
“I just want to say thank you to the Melbourne Football Club, firstly for giving me the chance to play for them and secondly for taking care of me during my time there,” Clark said.
“I want to say thank you to the players and members for being there for me. I’m sorry I wasn’t out on the field more, but with my injuries, it just wasn’t to be.”
Melbourne’s football manager Josh Mahoney said it became clearer as time went on that his job was an impediment to good health.
“It got to the point where the thing hampering him getting back to his health was his involvement in AFL football,” Mahoney said.
“It’s a brave decision.”
Clark did not address the media or his teammates directly, instead sending a message informing the Melbourne players of his decision.
He later tweeted: “Hard to put a retirement speech into a tweet. I just want to thank everyone for your support throughout my career.”
Clark will remain in Melbourne as he gets treatment for his illness.
Mahoney suggested Clark’s case was unlikely to be an isolated one in the sport.
“There would be other players going through the same that would have made a different decision,” he said.
“Sometimes AFL is looked at as a glamorous sport but there’s a lot more pressure in AFL football than people realise, particularly when players are going through injuries that threaten their careers.”
While the Demons and Clark have put the player’s health first with his retirement, the disappointment from an on-field perspective was clear.
“We really thought he would be a key player in Melbourne’s rise up the ladder,” Mahoney said
Clark’s retirement at 26 years of age comes after several difficult years with injuries.
In his first year at the Demons he suffered a lisfranc (foot) injury which affected both the 2012 and 2013 season, where he played just 15 games.
As per AFL rules, Melbourne will retain Clark on their list until the end of the season.
Mahoney said it would be inappropriate to discuss any financial arrangements with Clark, who was contracted to the end of 2015.
His AFL career stats will read 97 games for 97 goals.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or follow @LifelineAust @OntheLineAus @kidshelp @beyondblue @headspace_aus @ReachOut_AUS on Twitter.